Friday, October 31, 2008

December 11, 2007

Stranded shepherdess in Saudi may be home Dec 23
12/11/2007 06:12 PM

The 65-year-old Filipino shepherdess who has been stranded in Saudi Arabia for two years may finally be able to see her only daughter and spend Christmas with her after 20 years of separation.

Philippine Labor Attache Adam Musa said documents for Somera’s repatriation to the Philippines on December 23 are currently being processed after the son of her previous employer showed up at the Philippine embassy on Monday and gave her a ‘No Objection Certificate" that would facilitate the issuance of her exit visa.

Mohammed Misfer Al Ghamdi, son of Somera’s previous employer, also gave her 2,000 riyals (roughly equivalent to P22, 000) pocket money.Somera had worked with the Al Ghamdi family in Saudi Arabia’s Al-Baha area since 1987 without receiving a regular salary.

She had claims of some P784,000 in back pay, which she earlier said she was willing to forego just to be able to go home and be with her daughter in the Philippines.Mohammed’s visit at the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s resource center shortly before noon on Monday caught Somera by surprise, and brought her into tears.

She promptly hugged Mohammad upon seeing him and pleaded that she be allowed to return home. Mohammed told Somera that his father has fallen ill and is currently confined in a hospital.

He asked for her forgiveness and prayers for his recovery.Somera later said Mohammed grew up under her care, and that she felt closely with him. "Malapit sa akin ang batang iyon kaya ganoon na lang ang tuwa ko nang makita ko s’ya," Somera said."Masaya ako dahil dumating na ang anak ng amo ko at tutulungan n’ya na akong makauwi. Pinatawad ko na sila," the former shepherdess said with joy after her conversation with Mohammed.

Welfare officer Romeo Pablo said members of the Filipino community in Riyadh had already pooled enough money to pay the penalty for Somera’s expired Iqama or residence permit. Somera marked her 65th birthday on Sept. 12 at the Philippine consulate in Jeddah.

Consular officers and staffmembers tried to bring joy to the old woman who Somera worked as a shepherdess for 18 years in Al-Baha and has weathered unpaid salaries, ice storms and being arrested several times by the police.Her daughter is now 24, and works in a hotel in Manila.

Her daughter was only six years old when she decided to leave her hometown in Nueva Ecija seek employment abroad following the death of her husband. She worked as a bus conductor before leaving for overseas job.Misfer Al-Ghamdi became Somera’s sponsor after his father died in early 1988. Somera had joined the family in Riyadh in December of 1987.But after her sponsor died, she moved to Al-Baha with her sponsor’s son, his wife and children.

There they left her in a large house to look after their goats, while they moved to Makkah for the education of their children. Her employers had since been leaving her inadequate money for her expenses and the animals.After long years and she was finally brought to the Philippine consulate in 2005 for assistance, her employers had declared insolvency and admitted they could not pay the salaries they owed her.

Somera could not go home because of a pending labor case that consular and labor officials helped file against her employers on her behalf. But Somera said she was willing to waive her claims for back wages for as long as she could go home to the Philippines and be with her daughter.On her 65th birthday, Somera said her birthday wish was to “go home before Christmas… I am longing to see my family and my daughter." - Ronaldo Concha, GMANews.TV

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